We’re just a few weeks away from the start of a prestigious year at Bowman Gray Stadium otherwise known as the “Infamous” Madhouse. With the anticipation and hype building up, one would guarantee a plethora of drivers will be ready to hit the track and hit the ground running in the Platinum edition of the Most Exciting of Them All!
The top tier Modified Series will primarily be the same, but with some changes afoot. Burt Myers will have an emotional season as a longtime friend of his Wendell Edwards past away in March. Myers will be looking to go three in a row for the first time in his career and the first driver since Tim Brown did it 20 years ago. It’ll be a tough task as he’ll have the 10-time track champion Tim Brown hunting his 11th title after a “subpar” season. Little brother Jason Myers will also be looking to get back to his winning ways with some new sponsors coming on board.
2017 Modified rookie Bobby Measmer Jr. will be returning to the Madhouse after a strong rookie season that he ended with 6 consecutive top tens and three top fives, including a third place, finished to cap off his rookie campaign. Danny Bohn and the Hillbilly racing team will be returning to run the full season, Bohn will be behind Phil Stefanelli’s sleek looking #17 car, while the Susan Hill owned Hillbilly team will tab 4-time Whelen Southern Modified Champion George Brunnhoelzl III to drive their car as a rookie and championship contender.
The Sportsman Series will not be the same as longtime competitor and former champion Taylor Branch lost his mother Shirley this offseason, Mama Branch as she was known to by many, was always a great woman to talk to and she was always there cheering and recording her son’s races every week. The defending champion Derek Stoltz returned after taking a year off and won the title based on consistent finishes, but now he’ll step away from full time racing to let his oldest son Alex get his feet wet.
2015 Champ Zack Clifton will be focusing on racing other places, which leaves the door standing wide open for 2016 champion Tommy Neal & 2014 champion Taylor Branch to swipe their second title. Let’s not forget about John Holleman IV, who had a career-high and record-tying eight wins, he’s going to race a modified this year, but he’s previously said he’s committed to running one more year in the Sportsman ranks. Dylan Ward has partnered with Tim Triplett and will run the Triplett #70. The rookie class will be interesting as five drivers with maybe a sixth driver possibly pursuing the full haul.
It seems the class of the year would be the Street Stock Series, as Derrick Rice retired following winning two championships, it left the door open for anybody to take it. After the dust settled on the final race of 2017, it was an unlikely champion in Jac Creed who held serve throughout the year and prevailed when he needed to, to win it all. He’ll return to duplicate what Rice did just a few years ago, but don’t be too surprised to see him being challenged by the ladies in Amber Lynn & Taylor Robbins as they’ve become fan favorites quickly. Lynn shocked the whole division and track by winning three races and hopes to bounce back after some bad luck.
Let’s not forget about the man whose finished near the top for the past 4 seasons Brian Wall, he’s always a front runner and it appears as if he’s going to be running up front for more wins another season in hopes of finally breaking through. A barrage of drivers will be looking to break up the party as a couple of two-time winners in Jeremy Warren and Spencer Martin will be looking to get two or more wins and maybe a first title in August after coming off of career years. The return of Billy Gregg, Doug Wall & Bryant Robertson will have fans of the 90’s & 00’s clamoring to see the trio do good things right out of the box. This division is not only the deepest in car counts, but the deepest so far in rookies as 5 has committed to running the full schedule and a handful more to run most of the season.
As always the Stadium Stadium Series never disappoints as if came down to the last lap finish with a new champion being crowned, Wesley Thompson did what he had to do in his scenario and that was to win the race and let the rest play out and it did in his favor. Thompson won his first career title by only one position over 2-time division champion and “King of the Mini Stocks” A.J. Sanders, who’ll once again be looking to tie three other drivers in winning a third title. Speaking of a guy whose win three titles, Chuck Wall won his three titles in three years and this year he’s on the fence about running the full season, but if he does he’ll be the first man to win four championships in the division.
Billy Cameron Jr. will once again team up with fellow driver Adam Thomas and hopes to collect some wins and let the points rack up. Jason Keaton Racing has announced a possible four-car team in 2018, with last year’s rookie Grayson Keaton and fan favorite Chris Allison coming back to run the entire season, Keaton himself will race some races and another should complete the season in the #61 car. The possible fourth car hasn’t been confirmed yet, but Jason has said there could be one. Former Caraway Speedway regulars D.J. Dean, Steven Stoneman, Johnny Baker and David Houck Jr. have said they’re either running for the full season or part-time, it’ll be interesting to see how the regulars take it with these “invaders” as some people say will look to come in and do good. The rookie class almost mirrors the street stock, but the only change is the part-time drivers in a little less than the upper division.
With this year being a big deal in 70 years of continuous operations, I expect this season to be chalked full of great finishes, record-breaking milestones, possibly some drama off of the track and some good old fashion hard racing. So be sure mark your calendars, save the date and come on out to the Madhouse on April 21st and experience the reason behind the madness of the madhouse. The Season Opening event, as stated before, is scheduled for April 21st as the Modifieds will race for 200 laps following a 40 lap Sportsman race. The Street Stock will have a 20 lap event following the Hayes Jewelers 200 and lastly, the Stadium Stocks will have a pair of 15 lap affairs if there are more than 26 cars.